Today I stumbled across the Guardian article, “Influence of classic literature on writers declining.” I understand what the author is saying. When I was in high school and college I learned all sorts of classical literature which I am eternally grateful for. However, now that I’m older and less patient, I am more happy with reading YA and contemporary literature.
I still need to write my book reviews for the last two books I read during my classic literature run. I haven’t done one of them because I just want to say, “this wasn’t my thing” even though everyone and their grandmother seems to love it. The word Steve used was “accessible.” With authors like Austen, the language gets in the way of the story for me. I enjoy it but it takes more work. Still, I am 100% behind reading the classics. Without knowing Shakespeare, for example, you can’t know how literature has evolved into what it is today.
Still, the ease of contemporary fiction is good for influence’s sake, as the article suggests. While not all of it is good or anything that I’d be interested in personally, the same has gone for classic books of the day when the sensationalist novels were full of drivel. It’s just a fact of literary heritage that best sellers are not always going to be quality books. That doesn’t mean we can’t read them for entertainment. I still like to watch reality shows from time to time even though I know they’re full of pretentious crap. But I digress.
Personally, I want a balance of classic to contemporary but lately my preference has been leaning more into the modern fiction (and the books that were popular when I was a kid, as you can see in my photo.)
I think there’s room for both. I read mostly modern fiction, but retreat with Hardy or Dickens from time to time, if only to remind myself what writers can to with words when they really let them come out to play and don’t worries about word length and production costs. (And they told great stories!
I know what you mean about retreating to classics. I like remembering great story-telling myself. A lot (not all, but some) of modern fiction doesn’t have that “wow” factor that the classics do. I like being impressed by good old fashioned literary genius.
I love that picture of the pile of your books, Suzanne. I think there’s something rather cool about having Jane Eyre, Marian Keyes and Sex in the City in the same pile! It’s certainly an eclectic mix and one that says you have nothing to prove to anyone. I was a fan of Dickens at school, loved all that gritty psychology in those desperate times, in contrast to Jane Austen and her, forgive me, deathly dull characters boring me to tears as they did with their ridiculous concerns, – put them in an alley with Bill Sykes, that would give them something to worry about. I just don’t think I was ready for Jane Austen then. I read mostly contemporary fiction now but when I do read historical or lit fic, I make sure I’ve got a big chunk of time to set aside or I know I’ll end up starting again next time.
Thanks so much. I’m really trying to read differently than I use to (stick to what I know and all.) I really need to dig into my Dickens books as well (free on Kindle!) I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who found Austen challenging. I would read passages out to my husband who would say, “British people don’t talk like that anymore.” Glad to know it wasn’t just my Americanism playing tricks on me.